Roman ‘Cockpit’ Theatre (maybe) from Faversham

You know it’s going to be a strange day when the most responsible coverage of a major find is from the Daily Mail … here are the pertinent bits:

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a Roman theatre – dating back 2,000 years.

Dr Paul Wilkinson, founder of the Kent Archaeological Field School, believes it is the first of its kind to be found in Britain.

The theatre with a nearly circular cockpit-style orchestra, which would have seated 12,000 people. It  was found in Faversham, Kent – just behind Dr Wilkinson’s back garden where his field school is based.

The site shows activity dating back to the Bronze Age, but it is the Roman theatre – which would have been used for religious occasions – that has really excited history buffs.

Dr Wilkinson is fighting to preserve the unique find for future generations and has applied for it to become an ancient monument site.

He said: ‘It really is an amazing find, the first one in Britain, and it is just beyond my garden. This is a unique and wonderful discovery, not only for Faversham but for all of Britain.

‘The theatre could have held 12,000 people and we are going to request for it to become an ancient monument site because it is so important and we can preserve it for future generations.

‘It would have been a religious sanctuary for the Romans. They would have held religious festivals there. It is called a cockpit theatre.

‘There are 150 of them in northern Europe, but none in Britain until now. We were not expecting it.’
Investigations began on the land back in 2007, but the results have only just been released. A cockpit theatre had a large nearly circular orchestra with a narrow stage set much further back than in traditional theatres.

Dr Wilkinson believes the site is the only known example in Britain of a Roman rural religious sanctuary, with a theatre actually built into the hillside. Two temple enclosures were found near by as well as a sacred spring.

Durolevum was the name the Romans gave to Faversham, and means ‘the stronghold by the clear stream.’

English Heritage spokesman Debbie Hickman said: ‘If the full analysis of the results does confirm that the site on the outskirts of Faversham is a Roman rural theatre, it would be a most remarkable find.’

Dr Wilkinson has led archaeological digs in Kent for more than a decade. In September he led a team that found an ancient ceremonial site the size of Stonehenge on the North Downs. [...]

The piece goes on to talk about the henge stuff … there are also some photos from the dig which are somewhat difficult to make sense of (seats? supports for seats?)

In any event, I’m not sure who was doing the rewriting or whatever for Yahoo and the piles of spinoffs in various Indian newspapers, but here’s the headline that almost made me spew my caramel latte all over my screen:

Bronge Age Roman theatre discovered in UK

… and so, of course, I figured it was the usual case of a headline writer having his/her way — headlines often don’t get seen by editors, near as I can tell — but nooooooooo:

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a huge Bronze Age Roman theatre ~ dating back 2,000 years ~ buried in a school garden in the UK. [...]

… which, of course, made it into the Press Trust of India pool and we see:

… etc.

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